PLANS to change the way the NHS is funded could see Sunderland miss out on more than £112million, a health expert has warned.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley recently said that clinical commissioning groups created by his health service reforms could see cash allocated according to age rather than deprivation.
But today Clare Bambra, professor of public policy and acting director of the Wolfson Research Institute at Durham University, is warning that, if given the go- ahead, it could lead to poorer areas of the North East missing out at the expense of the South.
Her research suggests Sunderland would miss out on £112,240,000, or £407 per head, with County Durham missing out on £168,740,000 the equivalent of £324 per head.
Prof Bambra said: “If Andrew Lansley decided to go down that route that he suggested in a recent speech then it is particularly serious for the North East.
“Severing the link with deprivation will lead to a considerable shift of healthcare funding away from the neediest, poorer areas of the North and the inner cities towards the least needy, most affluent and most elderly areas of the South.”
Primary care trusts allocate funds for services by using a formula which takes into account deprivation, age, health and the cost of providing the care.
Mr Lansley has argued that parts of the country which have a higher population of elderly people have a greater demand for healthcare.
Labour MP for Easington Grahame Morris slammed the findings.
Mr Morris, who is also a member of the House of Commons’ Health Select Committee, said: “This fundamental change is cynical and politically motivated.
“It is the single biggest attack on reducing health inequalities and bridging the North-South divide in health outcomes.
“This is nothing other than the political gerrymandering of resources as it will channel money directly into the Tory heartlands where there is the least need and where people already live the longest.
But the Department of Health have hit back, saying Prof Bambra’s report is based on flawed analysis.
A spokesman said: “There has never been any intention of allocating NHS resources according to age alone.
“The Secretary of State is not suggesting that deprivation shouldn’t be part of the future funding formula – just that age should continue to be the primary factor.
“We are making sure that funding is given to areas that need it most.
The spokesman added: “The Health Act has given the NHS its first ever duty to reduce health inequalities and we have ring-fenced public health funding for the first time.
“These measures will help ensure that patients get the high quality healthcare that they deserve.”